Utahns among those forming Polynesian Football Hall of Fame
Nearly 60 players of Polynesian descent dot the rosters of National Football League teams, including former Highland High star Haloti Ngata of the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. His family is from Tonga.
Wednesday, a group that includes former BYU stars Reno Mahe and Vai Sikahema and Pittsburgh Steelers great Troy Polamalu will announce the establishment of the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame.
The PFHF will be based in Honolulu. Other board members include former NFL stars Jesse Sapolu and Ma'a Tanuvasa, and longtime college and NFL coach June Jones.
The hall's inaugural Enshrinement Ceremony is Jan. 23, 2014, in Honolulu, just prior to the NFL Pro Bowl.
Former BYU coach LaVell Edwards and former University of Utah and Weber State University coach Ron McBride are on the selection committee that also includes coach Dick Tomey, sportscasters Neil Everett and Robert Kekaula and NFL scouting legend Gil Brandt.
In the last Super Bowl, Ngata, who grew up in Salt Lake City, was one of five players who represented Polynesia, which means "region of many islands." Polynesia is described by the hall's organizers as an area of more than 800,000 square miles in the Pacific Ocean with New Zealand, Hawaii and Easter Island at its bordering points.
The largest Polynesian communities in the U.S. are in Hawaii, Utah, California, Nevada and Washington.
"There have been many Polynesian football players that have made a profound impact on the game we all love," said Sapolu, a four-time Super Bowl champion with the San Francisco 49ers. "It is our responsibility to honor these legends and help educate our young people about their significant contribution to Polynesian history and football."
Candidates for the inaugural enshrinement include the late Junior Seau, Mark Tuinei, Riki Ellison and quarterback Jack Thompson, who was known as the "Throwin Samoan."
Members of the Board of Directors have asked that they be excluded from consideration for induction in the inaugural class.
Some 24 finalists for the inaugural class will be selected and announced Sept. 12. From those finalists, seven inductees (six players and one coach/contributor) will be announced on Oct. 9 as the inaugural class.
The organizing group is seeking a permanent home within an existing historical landmark or building in Hawaii.